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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
January 16, 2013

Guests: Carolyn McCarthy, Stephen Barton, Howard Dean, Frank Smyth, Dr. Janet Robinson

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Today, the president went where no
president has gone before, making guns and ammunition control his first
legislative priority.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president going bold on his Newtown
promise.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will make it easier
to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals.

HALL: In a sweeping and ambitious plan.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: The White House thinks it`s better to go for
broke.

HALL: To fight gun violence in our nation.

OBAMA: Restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, a universal
background check, a 10-round limit for magazines.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It sounds very reasonable.

OBAMA: This is common sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Common sense.

FINNEY: Common sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These gun control measures are extreme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guns are just one small part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of those rights cannot be infringed.

OBAMA: With rights come responsibilities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t gag law-abiding citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Background checks don`t take guns from law-abiding
people. They pass those every time.

OBAMA: There`s no reason we can`t do this.

NARRATOR: Are the president`s kids more important than yours.

TODD: The NRA is out with a web video this morning.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know where to go with this
indecency.

NARRATOR: His kids are protected by armed guards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He mentioned the president`s kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This extremism is so frightening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president`s kids are off limits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it over the line, but not over the line for
the president to bring in children?

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Obama uses kids as shields.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flanking himself with some of the nation`s
children.

OBAMA: We don`t benefit from ignorance.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know where to go with this indecency.

OBAMA: This time must be different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These gun control measures are extreme.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those rights cannot be infringed.

LIMBAUGH: Obama uses kids as human shields.

UNIDENTIFIED FAMALE: Flanking himself with some of the nation`s
children.

OBAMA: Enough, this time must be different.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Today, President Obama made White House history by being
the first president to make gun control legislation his first presidential
legislative priority.

The president was preceded to the microphone today and introduced by
the only person who could have put together a full presidential legislative
package on gun control in only 30 days, the man who was chairman of the
Senate committee that passed the original assault weapons ban 20 years ago,
the man who took the stage today as clearly the most valuable vice
president of the modern age.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has been 33
days since the nation`s heart was broken by the horrific, senseless
violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty -- 20
beautiful first graders gunned down in a place that is supposed to be their
second sanctuary. Six -- six members of the staff killed, trying to save
those children.

We all know we have a moral obligation, a moral obligation to
everything in our power to diminish the prospect of something like that
happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The vice president described the meeting last month with
229 groups representing law enforcement agencies, gun officials, gun
advocacy groups, sportsmen, hunters. He also mentioned meetings with
members of Congress and he offered personal thanks to parents who suffered
the worst imaginable loss at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I want to personally thank Chris and Lynn McDonnell, who lost
a beautiful daughter, Grace, and the other parents who I had a chance to
speak to, for their suggestions and for, again, just for their -- the
courage of all of you to be here today. I admire -- I admire the grace and
the resolve that you all are showing. And I must say I have been deeply
affected by your faith, as well. And the president and I are going to do
everything to try to match the resolve that you`ve demonstrated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president then demonstrated his resolve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is our first task as a society: keeping our children
safe. This is how we will be judged. So, I`m putting forward a specific
set of proposals based on the work of Joe`s task force. And in the days
ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a
reality, because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent
every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that
will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing
we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be
saved, then we`ve got an obligation to try it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president announced he would sign 23 executive orders
giving law enforcement, schools and mental health facilities some
additional tools to help reduce gun violence, including strengthening
background check systems.

Then, he announced his legislative proposals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: First, it is time to Congress to require a universal
background check for anybody trying to buy a gun.

(APPLAUSE)

Second, Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault
weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines.

(APPLAUSE)

And, finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder law
enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy
guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to
criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president has no illusions about the road ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians
and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out
assault on liberty. Not because that`s true, but because they want to gin
up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves.

And behind the scenes, they`ll do everything they can to block any
common sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president closed with a private revelation of what
helps keep him focused on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I visited Newtown last month I spent some private time
with many of the families who`d lost their children that day. And one was
the family of Grace McDonnell. Grace`s parents are here.

Grace was 7 years old when she was struck down -- just a gorgeous,
caring, joyful little girl. I`m told she loved pink. She loved the beach.
She dreamed of becoming a painter.

And so, just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her
paintings. And I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office.

And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace, and I
think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her.
And most of all, I think about how when it comes to protecting the most
vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the 25 other innocent
children and devoted educators who had so much left to give; for the men
and women in big cities and small towns who fall victims to senseless
violence each and every day; for all the Americans who are counting on us
to keep them safe from harm.

Let`s do the right thing. Let`s do the right thing for them and for
this country that we love so much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Krystal Ball, that was a parent speaking today, father in
chief to these school children that he`s trying to protect.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I mean, not only does he connect
incredibly on this issue and speak from very visceral place, but as you
reporting on, Joe Biden could not be a better emissary on this issue, both
for the reasons you pointed out, and also he knows personal tragedy and he
knows it well. So when he speaks about this issue, too, it comes from a
personal place.

And I think the president is smart in what he is doing here
politically, as well. He knows that assault weapons ban, the ban on
extended magazines, universal background checks. Those are things that a
Republican Congress is not just going to come out and support. He has to
remind American people of how important this is.

He has to get the American people behind him, and ultimately even if
it takes a turnover in the House in 2014, which is something I think we
personally could see. Even if that is the end game having the American
people behind him is ultimately the only way that anything real is going to
happen here.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, a word on Joe Biden today. I was struck
watching him lead the way into this subject, that I really cannot think of
a more effective, more valuable vice president that we have had, unless you
are a big fan of torture and invading countries to get weapons of mass
destruction --

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: I mean, you know, Cheney, if you`re a fan of that stuff,
then you`ve got another candidate for this. But am I -- am I missing some
other vice president who has played as central an important a role in
getting things done in the White House?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, no, and the
job is worth a bucket of warm liquid. So, you know, he -- Cheney did not
actually work his magic, his black magic, through the law-abiding means,
right? This is about legislation.

And remember, Joe Biden, look, he gets a lot of criticism and mockery
for his kind of folksy ways, overly personal ways. But what he did, as you
well know at that time was say we as Democrats are going to be tough about
crime, we`re going to put 100,000 cops on the street.

So there was not just the gun control piece of it. They were going to
say, we`re going to support law enforcement, and that is still the
framework you hear today. This is pro-law enforcement. They do not want
these weapons on the street.

So I -- look, you can say it is smart politics and OK, let`s say it is
smart politics. I think there is something else going on here. It is
personal. I have seen the look in the president`s eye before. It was
health care.

Health care, you know, what about the politics? The difficulty of the
legislation. In the end it comes down to an emotional thing for actually
somebody who is not that emotional. When he talks about the little girl,
when you can see him relating to his own daughters -- and, by the way, the
NRA has done that, too -- that`s not about politics anymore. Not in the
way we talk about politics, that`s politics in a real life sense.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to him making a point about Ronald Reagan
supporting these ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Weapons designed for war have no place in a movie theater.
The majority of Americans agree with us on this. And, by the way, so did
Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who
wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them -- this is Ronald Reagan speaking --
urging them to listen to the American public and the law enforcement
community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style
assault weapons.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That man has more in common with Ronald Reagan on policy
than any Republican in the House of Representatives. Ronald Reagan raised
the debt ceiling when necessary without complaint, Ronald Reagan raised
taxes as president more than once.

BALL: Right.

O`DONNELL: And Ronald Reagan was in favor of a ban on assault weapons
just like President Obama.

BALL: Right, and that -- you know, that comment was a way of saying
that these are very centrist reforms. You know, these are really common
sense things that most Americans agree with. He emphasized that in a few
ways and a few times during his talk.

And I think the framing is really important. I think, the framing
that you`re talking, too, is really important. It`s not just guns that
they`re looking at. They`re looking at mental health. They are looking at
research and links between violent media.

You know, they are looking at more armed school resource officers at
schools and providing funding for that.

But I think constantly framing it -- you know, these are things that
just make sense that the majority of Americans support. And how can these
Republicans be so intransigent, so out here on the fringe that they`re not
be even willing to discuss or consider any of these measures.

O`DONNELL: Richard, a month ago, we were hearing pundits saying, oh,
hand this off to Joe Biden and you`re going to get involved in a Senate
committee process and you`re going to lose all the momentum

Well, this President Obama/Vice President Biden team, in the meantime,
solved the fiscal cliff situation. Joe Biden reached the final deal with
Mr. McConnell on how to do that. And, oh, by the way, as far as I can tell
in that room today, they didn`t lose a day of momentum, emotional momentum
on this case in the last month.

WOLFFE: Right. Yes, if it is an incompetent man, he turned out to be
pretty professional.

You know, there -- it is very easy to be cynical, everyone in the news
media says, oh, people will forget about it. They`re not forgetting about
it, because the power at what happened at Sandy Hook is still with us.
There are still families out there.

And I just want to pick on Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, he`s not
just saying that because it makes sense politically, right? He can
embarrass Republicans. He has long wanted to be the Ronald Reagan of the
left. He has wanted to shift the political discussion.

So he knows, whether or not this legislation gets through, he has
changed the debate by simply sticking to his principles and saying this is
not off limits. We`re not going to be intimidated by the NRA. We should
be talking about this. It doesn`t happen now, it will happen next year, or
the year after that, or next decade. But it will happen.

O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe and Krystal Ball, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the unmasking of the NRA. We will go inside
the NRA with an investigative reporter who will tell us about his
conversation with a high level NRA official who actually lives minutes away
from Sandy Hook Elementary School. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: It`s a weird show for me tonight. I don`t like anything
we`re talking about. I don`t like talking about gun violence in America.
I don`t like talking about what happened at Sandy Hook.

I really don`t like talking about this video that we showed you last
night that the NRA did using President Obama`s daughters. Using his
daughters in their insane propaganda about their cause of making sure that
American mass murderers are the best equipped mass murderers in the world.

I don`t like these subjects, and we`re going to have to talk about it
a little bit more, because today, instead of taking down that video the NRA
spent the day defending it. We`ll have more on that, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We have to examine ourselves and our hearts, and ask ourselves
what is important. This will not happen unless the American people demand
it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and
sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background
stand up and say, enough, we have suffered too much pain, and care too much
about our children to allow this to continue, then change will -- change
will come. That`s what it`s going to take.

You know, in the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, I know that
laws have to be passed by Congress. But I beg you to try very hard. You
know, in the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, I know that laws have to
be passed by Congress. But I beg you to try very hard.

(LAUGHTER)

Julia, I will try very hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The witnesses to history today as the president made his
announcement included children, cabinet members, and a sadly large group of
people who are united by tragedy. The living victims of gun violence, some
who have lost family members, others who have been shot themselves and
survived.

Joining me now, two people who were in the room with the president
today, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, her husband was killed
and her son injured in the 1993 massacre on Long Island railroad. And
Stephen Barton, who was shot in the Aurora massacre in July. He is also
from Connecticut and actually used to live about 10 minutes from Sandy Hook
Elementary School.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

Congresswoman McCarthy, I have to ask you since your career in
politics began with this cause, what was it like for you to be at the only,
the only presidential announcement in history of gun control initiatives
being initiated and pushed by the president of the United States.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: Well, I have to tell you there
were times where I was about ready to break down and cry, to be in the
audience with so many of the victims and to see so many of the different
groups that I have worked with for years, and some new ones and to hear the
president take a very, very strong stance. I`m very proud of President
Obama and certainly Vice President Joe Biden who has done so much work on
bringing everybody together.

I really -- you have worked on the Hill. You know what it`s like
here. It is going to be a tough job but I have to say, the president has
promised that he`s going to use his office to get out in the country and
really talk this up. And get the American people on our side.

O`DONNELL: Stephen, you were in a room with victims of gun violence
today, yourself a victim. You still have, what is it eight shotgun pellets
in your body from what happened in Colorado?

Did you have a chance to speak to some of the families of the victims
of the Sandy Hook tragedy?

STEPHEN BARTON, AURORA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I did get a chance to speak
with -- speak with several families. And you know, the heartbreak that
they have endured and are enduring now is just it defies understanding
completely. And, you know, that`s really the heart of the debate. You
know, the lives of the children of this country, so many of them who are
killed by gun violence every single day.

So, you know, it`s only been a month since 20 young children were
brutally murdered in Connecticut. And you know, I really commend the
president and the vice president for acting so quickly on this issue that,
you know, has long required this sort of serious discussion. And I`m glad
that we`re having it now.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman McCarthy, say, three weeks ago by pundits
saying, oh, well, you know, they`re going to wait until January. The
momentum will go out of this issue by that time. It felt to me like there
was an awful lot of momentum today. And it felt to me like something less
than a month had gone by since Joe Biden went to work on this.

MCCARTHY: You`re absolutely right. And I have to tell you, I mean,
the energy that was in that room, the attorney general came over to me and
gave me a big hug and said, Carolyn, this is all of your work finally
coming to a place where we can get something done.

So, listen, it`s not about me. It is about the victims. It is about
the victims we hopefully can save.

We know, as the president said, that we`re not going to be able to
save everybody. But I have to tell you, we can cut down the amount of
killings in this country in more than half, in my opinion. When you think
about it, since what happened in Sandy Hook, 900 people have died from that
day, 900 people in 33 days, a lot of them children.

So I mean, we should be on the right side of this issue. I believe
the American people, if you look at the polls, are saying we`re on the
right side of this issue.

And we are reaching out to everybody. We`re meeting with the NRA,
we`re meeting with sportsmen, with hunters, we`re meeting with people that
have not agreed with us, to try to bring them all on board.

And with the president as I said, going out in the country pushing the
assault weapons bill, making sure that everybody in this country goes
through a background check.

And also, for him saying we`re not after your guns. You have a
constitutional right to own the gun.

And yet, the NRA keeps putting out these notices. And what they did
as far as an ad, going after President Obama`s children, you know that`s
always been off the plate. You don`t go after the president`s children.
And I was very insulted by that particular ad.

But I`m telling you, we`re going to work like crazy. We`re going to
bring everybody together. It`s going to be a tough job and we need the
American people behind us.

O`DONNELL: Stephen Barton, one of the lies that the NRA and others
continue to try to assert is that nothing the president proposed today
would have changed what happened at Sandy Hook. There were -- we talk
about the tragedy at Sandy Hook. There were 26 tragedies in the school
that day, 26 tragedies, and that is because he got to use the kind of
weapon and the kind of ammunition clip that President Obama and Carolyn
McCarthy are trying to make illegal. They`re trying to make those
unavailable to the kinds of people who go in the schools like that.

And his mother bought this stuff legally. She clearly was not the
law-breaking type. She would not have tried to obtain weapons illegally.
If she had not been able to obtain the weapons legally, they would not have
been in the hands of the killer that day. And we would not have had the
tragedies that day. He would have killed some people with that gun, but
not 26.

BARTON: Yes. And Vice President said it best today. He said, don`t
let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And you know, we can`t prevent
every killing in this country. But that doesn`t mean we don`t have an
obligation to try, you know, enact these common sense solutions that we
know will be successful in decreasing gun violence in this country.

I mean, universal background checks, talking about the NRA as an
organization, we have to be clear, there is a distinction between who the
NRA leadership represents and their member and what they think. And so,
talking about measures like universal background checks, 74 percent of NRA
members support that, and it is even higher among non-NRA gun owners.

So this is an issue that the American public has come to a consensus
on, and to some cases, an overwhelming consensus. And, you know, none of
the pressures that President Obama proposed today would infringe on
anybody`s Second Amendment rights. That is completely untrue.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Stephen
Barton, a survivor of the Aurora massacre -- thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

BARTON: Thank you.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Howard Dean will join me with his reaction to
the NRA using President Obama`s children in their propaganda.

And later, we will go inside the NRA and expose some of the blood-
drenched members of their board of directors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: These two guys are on the board of the National Rifle
Association. Tom Selleck is not a bad guy. I have invited him on the show
to talk about his position with the National Rifle Association. I hope he
comes on, because I believe that his life is now at a moral crossroads.
The decision he is going to have to make about will he stick with the
principles that the NRA leadership wants to advance over the opinions of
the NRA`s membership that actually disagrees with the NRA leadership?

Now, neither one of those guys have resigned from the board of the NRA
over the NRA`s sleazy use of the president`s children in their propaganda.
We`ll expose more members of the board of the NRA coming up.

And next, Howard Dean will join me with his reaction to the NRA`s
tactics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, it is
disgusting on many levels. It is also -- it is just stupid. This reminds
me of something -- an ad that somebody made about 2:00 a.m. After one too
many drinks, and no one stopped it in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was
talking about this NRA video we showed you last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the president`s kids more important than
yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our
schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr.
Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he is just
another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.

Protection for their kids, and gun free zones for ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released this
statement this morning: "most Americans agree that a president`s children
should not be used as pawns in a political fight. But to go to far as to
make the safety of the president`s children the subject of an attack ad is
repugnant and cowardly."

The NRA insists there`s absolutely nothing wrong with using the
president`s children this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not about them specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mention them specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we don`t mention them specifically. We
mention his kids and other kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Howard dean, former chairman of the
Democratic National Committee and former governor of Vermont. Governor
Dean, I have to ask you, as a former office holder yourself, your kids were
roughly the age of Sasha and Malia when you were governor of Vermont. You
know what it is like for kids to live under having a father in this kind of
position.

What is your reaction to what the NRA has done here?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Well, first of all, I think
kids are always off bounds. And if they`re not, the press shouldn`t be
doing it. Here you have an organization that is doing it. Now what --
let`s, first of all, differentiate NRA members, who at least in my state
are reasonable people, from the NRA leadership in Washington, which are
hate-mongering, fund raising.

That`s what they`re doing here. They are appealing to people who hate
and they`re doing it by using the president`s rhetoric, first, about the
high taxes or whatever on rich people, and then using his kids. These are
not respectable people. These are hate mongering and they`re extremists.

And they crossed a line and they crossed a line that I would guess
that 90 percent of Americans agree has been crossed. I think they have
done themselves terrible, terrible damage. There is a reason, for example,
you haven`t seen Wayne LaPierre on the public talk shows since the sort of
spitting rant that he gave a couple of weeks ago.

And now the whole leadership has basically lost all of their
credibility.

O`DONNELL: Governor, I`m so glad you made the distinction between NRA
members and the NRA leadership, because we now have polling showing that
NRA membership are in favor of background checks. They`re in favor of
things, a majority of them in favor of things that the NRA leadership is
opposed to. And so there is this huge disconnect.

DEAN: The key is fund raising. That`s what the NRA is doing.
They`re appealing to hate. And they`re getting more members, because there
are some people who hate the Obamas. But that is what they`re raising
money on. This is no longer about the Second Amendment. This is about
raising money on hate.

O`DONNELL: And one of the people who has made it very clear that this
is not about the Second Amendment is the most conservative member of the
Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, who has said that the Heller case in 2008
showed that there absolutely can limitations. That is what their last
ruling has said. He said, "there are some limitations that can be
imposed."

So to pretend, as the NRA is doing, that you can`t legislate in any
way in this area without violating the Second Amendment defies everything
the Supreme Court and Justice Scalia have already said about this.

DEAN: That is true. And I actually saw -- I was endorsed eight
consecutive times by the National Rifle Association when I was running for
statewide office in Vermont. These people are not crazy. And the local
people, they are hunters. They just don`t want their guns taken away.
They don`t believe you ought to kill a dear with a semiautomatic that has a
30 round magazine. They laugh at that kind of stuff.

But I saw a guy come up from the central office one time who gave a
speech concluding by jumping up and down, saying I have the Constitutional
right to have a Bazooka if I want to have one. And the local Vermont NRA
guys just looked at each other and said this guy was lunatic, which, in
fact, he is a lunatic. And I really do think the NRA headquarters is
populated by crazy people.

This is a stupid, crazy thing to do, to put the president`s children
in your political ad. It is a dumb thing to do. It is a hate-based thing
to do. It may raise them money, but it sure isn`t going to help their
credibility with the average Americans. Even NRA members won`t like it,
because a lot of NRA members are average Americans.

O`DONNELL: You mentioned the bazooka thing. Scalia specifically said
something like that. He said the amendment does not apply to arms that
cannot be hand carried, for example, doesn`t amount to -- apply to canons
and so forth. He has been very specific about all that.

Governor Howard Dean, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

DEAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the NRA is really just a front organization for
the money-making merchants of death in this country. Unmasking the NRA is
coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: So how is the NRA leadership able to ignore the pro-gun
control views of a majority of its membership? Unmasking the people who
really run the National Rifle Association is next.

And THE LAST WORD exclusive, the superintendent of Newtown Public
Schools in Connecticut, who brought congressmen to tears today in
Washington, will get tonight`s LAST WORD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: This is the space normally reserved for the Rewrite in the
show, which, as faithful viewers know, is me pontificating about something
alone here. But better work than I can do has been done today in an area
that I want to talk about, so I`m going to have a guest to guide us through
this. The fact is that before the president finished speaking today,
before he finished speaking, Republicans in the blood-drenched grip of the
NRA were already issuing statements filled with NRA talking points.

Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt`s statements said "the
president`s proposals today fundamentally failed to address ways that we
can prevent tragic events like Sandy Hook, and instead, he is attempting to
restrict the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans."

No word yet on whether this outright lie was actually composed by
Senator Blunt`s staff or Senator Blunt`s son, who is on the NRA board of
directors, and is one of the nine members of the exclusive nominating
committee, which has effective control over who can become a member of the
board. We know this thanks to Frank Smyth, whose piece in "Mother Jones"
reveals who else is on the nominating committee, including George K.
Kollitides II, who is chief executive of Freedom Group, the merchants of
death who made the Bushmaster military-style assault rifle used to rip up
the bodies of the 20 children and six educators inside Sandy Hook
Elementary School.

And the head of the nominating committee actually lives in Newtown,
Connecticut. Patricia A. Clark, who has done everything in her power to
make sure American mass murderers can fire as many bullets as they want,
without reloading, lives just a few minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary
School.

Joining me now is Frank Smyth, the investigative journalist who has
gone inside the NRA for "Mother Jones." Frank, this piece is so important.
This is exactly the kind of information I`ve been looking for. This --
Patricia Clark?

FRANK SMYTH, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Yes.

O`DONNELL: She lives in Newtown?

SMYTH: She lives in Newtown.

O`DONNELL: She runs this committee. This is the committee who really
decides who gets to be on the board. They pretend to have elections, but
this committee is there to rig the elections. Explain how that works.

SMYTH: And she ran the nominating committee for the elections in
2012. There is a new nominating committee in effect now. But the way the
elections work, it is sort of like a communist era Politburo, a committee
that no one seems to knows who is on.

O`DONNELL: You just finding out who they are is very difficult.

SMYTH: Absolutely, absolutely. And Second Amendment activist
bloggers that are supportive of the NRA`s agenda, but critical of the
organization, have complained that this creates a sham election. They pick
-- they hand-pick the candidates for the NRA elections that get on the
ballot. And 29 out of 31 candidates on the ballot are, in fact, picked by
the nominating committee.

Every year, maybe one or two people manage to get on by a petition of
250 members or more. The result is, the election is a done deal before
even the ballots go out. And pro-NRA bloggers, NRA members complain that
I`m not even sure I`m going to take the time to fill it out, because it is
such a waste of time.

There is no drama. There is no debate. There is no discussion.
There is no accountability in the process. It is simply about rubber
stamping what the nominating committee has already done. And ultimately,
it is a way of the NRA board and the paid executive officers that are
chosen by the board to keep themselves and people loyal to them in power.

O`DONNELL: And that`s the way this guy -- did I say his name right,
Kollitides?

SMYTH: Yes.

O`DONNELL: That is the way he got on this board, is he runs one of
these gun manufacturers. He runs the people who profit from the
Bushmaster, the weapon that can kill so well. And he couldn`t get elected.
We have a picture of him up there. I want people to take a good look at
it. Leave it up there for a while. I want this merchant of death to be
stared at by a national audience for as long as possible.

He couldn`t get on any other way except the rigged system.

SMYTH: That is right. He has never been on the NRA board. He`s run
a few times and lost. And he was put on the board by -- or put on the
nominating committee by members of the board, at the same time that he is
now the CEO of one of the largest arms consortium manufacturers in the
country.

He is an individual who has no formal role in the National Rifle
Association. He is not elected by the membership. He holds no position.
There is no way of knowing that he has any organic relationship with the
NRA whatsoever, except in this document that I was able to obtain, which
indicates that he was appointed to the nominating committee. There are
three members --

O`DONNELL: But Wayne LaPierre`s real job is to make sure that that
guy can get richer and richer and richer from these murder instruments.
That`s his real job.

SMYTH: I think Wayne LaPierre`s real job, the chief executive officer
of the NRA, is to manage the message of the National Rifle Association, in
order to keep himself and others in power, and to continue to try and have
the political clout they have had. He is an expert at manipulating the
press and manipulating the message.

He is extremely ideological in his own writings. and when he is
talking to people where he feels safe and in a sympathetic forum. But you
will notice when he spoke at the NRA headquarters, in the press conference
one week after Newtown, he didn`t mention the Second Amendment once, not
once. He made a pragmatic argument.

And I think what people need to realize is imagine if the Vatican were
to come out and say, we`re going to hold a press conference to make a
meaningful contribution to the debate about reproductive rights. And then
they came out and they announced that we have new data showing that birth
control doesn`t work. Nobody would take that seriously.

The NRA is ideologically predisposed to never supporting any forms of
gun control. In fact, there is considerable evidence that the leadership
of the NRA would like to repeal the 1968 ban on fully automatic weapons.
They want to go in the other direction. But LaPierre has been able to make
a pragmatic argument, what works versus what doesn`t work.

O`DONNELL: I have to ask you about Patricia Clark. You tracked her
down in Newtown, Connecticut. You found out she works in the health care
business in southern Connecticut. You got her on the phone. How did that
conversation go? What did you ask her?

SMYTH: I asked her if she was in the anti-evil program, an
instructor. And she said yes. And I asked her -- I said you`re also a
board member. She said yes. She said who is this. I said I`m Frank
Smyth. I`m an investigative reporter. I`ve written on the NRA for "the
Village Voice."

And I said, you`re also on the nominating committee. Well, I was on
the nominating committee.

O`DONNELL: You asked her did she know anyone in that shooting,
suffered from that shooting.

SMYTH: Well, I asked her -- I was calling around in Newtown. And I
said, look, I don`t know if you know anyone who has been affected. I`m not
sure what that is. And then she stopped me there before I could ask a
question, and said, this has been a hard time for me, I`m not interested in
giving an interview at this time.

I wanted to make sure, because you don`t when you`re calling around a
town -- she may know someone, but how close or not she might be to people
who were killed.

O`DONNELL: It should be a very, very hard time for an NRA official
living in Newtown, Connecticut. I hope it is a hard time. Frank Smyth,
thank you very much for this invaluable reporting.

SMYTH: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a LAST WORD exclusive, the Newtown
superintendent who spoke on Capital Hill today about gun violence and
children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET ROBINSON, NEWTOWN SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: That morning was like
every other morning. After all, routines are comforting for kids. Until
about 9:30, when a troubled young man carrying two guns, one of them an AR-
15 assault rifle, shot out the glass window to bypass the buzz-in system at
the door and changed the lives of so many people in the next few minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was the superintendent of Newtown schools today
telling House Democrats what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She
was not testifying in front of a House Committee, because House Committees
are controlled by the party that is owned by the gun merchants of America.
And the gun merchants do not want the chairman that they own allowing
testimony at their hearings about what their mass murder products actually
do when they`re aimed at children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBINSON: This loving little elementary school was helpless in the
face of this assault. Twenty beautiful and innocent little first graders
were lost that day in a senseless act. They were no match for a troubled
person with an AR-15.

At the fire house, where we had all gathered to try to sort through
the events of the day, the true horror of the assault began to become
apparent as parents came running, crying to the station looking for their
children. As we released children to their parents, we began to realize we
didn`t have enough children. There were parents without children. It was
then that I began to realize the magnitude of this horror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The superintendent then read a letter written to Nancy
Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBINSON: I would just like to share with you as one final thought a
fourth grade student, Congresswoman Pelosi, sent you a letter. And her
name is Ava. She says "I am a fourth grade student in Newtown,
Connecticut. After the shooting in my town, I started an online petition
asking for help from the president and Congress to change the gun laws.

"It got a lot of support from all over America, but then I had to take
it down because the police were worried about my safety. What everyone in
Newtown wants is for you to ban semiautomatic weapons and large capacity
magazines and to make everyone use guns safely."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview, Newtown Schools
superintendent, Dr. Janet Robinson. Thank you very much for joining me
tonight.

ROBINSON: Nice to see you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: The -- Ava`s note said "what everyone in Newtown wants is
for you to ban semiautomatic weapons. And I`m sorry to say that is not
apparently what everyone in Newtown wants. We were just talking in the
last segment about Patricia Clark, who is a high-ranking NRA official, who
lives in Newtown. And I think as you know, Newtown in the past has had a
fairly large community in support for extreme positions on gun rights.

ROBINSON: Ava is one of our fourth grade students. And Ava speaks
for the heart of the students. The students, not just the students at
Sandy Hook but the students throughout the district, had their safety --
sense of safety shattered by this incident. And Ava is forthright enough
to speak her mind and wants to make sure people know how the children of
Newtown and their families are feeling about this issue.

O`DONNELL: What I was struck by in your testimony today is that there
is -- there is no amount of time that can pass that can make hearing about
what happened there, hearing another account, another voice about what
happened there -- today it was you -- that doesn`t absolutely horrify
everyone who was listening.

People couldn`t keep their composure listening to what you had to tell
them. Is it surprising to you that what Ava wants, which is so simple,
which is so clear, could run into significant resistance in Washington?

ROBINSON: Yes, it is surprising to me, because I -- because I live
and work around children. Everything we do and I have devoted my entire
career to is educating children. So the voices of children, who are not
afraid to speak their minds, are really pure. And they need to be listened
to by all the people that make -- make these important decisions. No --
there is no amendment that says that children have a right to grow up
healthy and not be shot at, but it`s just a given.

I ended my speech today talking about the value -- you can tell the
value of a society by how they treat their children. And I think the
horror of this will continue every time people sit down and think about it,
that 20 little six and seven year olds could be killed like this.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Janet Robinson, the children of Newtown are lucky to
have you running their system. And thank you very much for bringing your
voice to Washington today, and Ava`s voice. And thank you for joining us
tonight.

ROBINSON: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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